General Parts Contributes a New Instructor to CFESA Training School
By Pat Finley -Lead Master Certified Technician
For several years General Parts Group has been supporting the Commercial Food Equipment Service Association’s (CFESA) training school by supplying an instructor to teach classes in refrigeration. Jeff Stake a Lead Master Certified technician from General Parts’ Minneapolis branch is that instructor, teaching two classes a year to technicians from all over the United States. Jeff’s work has been valuable to both CFESA and General Parts and because of that, the company decided to introduce Pat Finley as a second trainer to the program. Pat is also a Lead Master Certified technician as well as our in-house trainer for Garland clam-shell as well as a Frymaster level 2 trainer.
Pat’s first experience with the program was the February 2021 class and because of this, we thought this would be the perfect opportunity to interview Pat about his experience as the new guy and gain some insight to share with our industry peers and friends and the wider community.
What and where is the CFESA training school?
CFESA is the trade association for service agencies working in the commercial food equipment repair industry. CFESA has four fully functioning test kitchens located in Fort Mill, SC. They have a wide variety of equipment on hand, from various manufacturers to teach and train technicians. They also offer training for New Technicians, Installation, and management courses. For those who want to go further than training and become officially CFESA certified then they also offer their well-known technician certification program which covers gas, steam, electric, and refrigeration equipment.
How did you get involved?
General Parts President, Gary Schermann asked me if I would like to get involved in the refrigeration program. Jeff is planning his retirement which is still a few years out, but Gary was looking for some continuity to keep General Parts involved in the training program. So, I went along to the next event to see what it was about and interview to become a CFESA certified trainer.
What do you think is in this for General Parts?
I see it as a way to be proactive and raise the bar with training and as well as showcasing our company. I believe it lets CFESA know that General Parts wants to continue to be an important part of the refrigeration training program and CFESA in general. It will also keep me versed in training and refrigeration practices. It will help me network with other technicians and companies in the future.
How was the overall experience?
I met a lot of amazing people from all over the country and all with different skills. Going into the training, I was unsure of what to expect. Yes, I teach to my company’s technicians, but never through a sanctioning partner. My company took a chance on me. They had faith in me, even when I doubted myself.
We started off on Sunday with setting up the class and labs. Monday, we welcomed 11 refrigeration techs to class, smaller size due to current restrictions. Three instructors took turns covering various topics from compressor types, valves, refrigeration cycle, and more. One of the instructors had taught this class for several years but I and the other instructor were seeing that material for the first time, and that intimidated me a bit. After meeting all the techs and doing introductions, we had them take a pre-test. They were not given their scores, as this was an assessment of what they knew before starting the training.
The following 5 days were full of learning opportunities for the techs as well as myself. When not instructing, I was actively taking notes and learning new things and techniques. I spent time in labs helping each tech covering the curriculum and learning about them as techs. I like to get to know my students personally. It helps me figure out how they learn and make the experience the best I can. I made sure to spend time with the class when on break, or by the fire outside the hotel. We had some good times around the firepit!
At the end of the week, it was test time. This is not a pass or fail test although the training would be beneficial for taking the CFESA refrigeration certification. The test scores are used to judge the class’s improvements over the week. The good news was everyone made good improvements and some nearly doubled their scores. After testing and awarding attendance certificates, we passed out forms, so each student critiqued the training. This included everything, teachers, material, labs, facilities, and more. Most wanted more hands-on, we are techs, we love the hands-on, so I completely understand.
Once the techs left, we helped switch out equipment to get ready for the next batch of training. We sat down with the CFESA directors and discussed the class. We brainstormed ideas such as possible future refrigeration mockups and getting hold of a few component pieces such as compressors and TXV valves with cut-a-ways or viewable internals.
I see an opportunity for improvement by updating procedures to more modern practices and techniques. To that end, I have been tasked by CFESA with designing a new refrigeration mockup that uses R290 refrigerant which is becoming more popular mainly because there being no need to reclaim the refrigerant. The design will incorporate multiple sight glasses to show the various states the refrigerant has in the different areas of the system.
My personal takeaways are, never be intimidated to do new things. Don’t just go through life doing your normal routine. Take chances and embrace uncertainty. I sure am glad I did. I look forward to teaching here again and meeting another great group of people. I am certainly looking forward to going back and teaching a whole part of the curriculum as part of my journey to become an official CFESA certified trainer.